The Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee is concerned with deepening the spiritual life of Yearly Meeting by calling forth and nurturing gifts of the Spirit, supporting and assisting the Yearly Meeting with programs, retreats, workshops, activities at Annual Session, and other activities as needed; the clerk of the Committee serves as a member of the Program Committee.
The Committee developed a new description of our work for the Manual of Procedure. Through this process, we became clear that we need more time to worship together; we must be well grounded in the Spirit if we are to provide assistance to others. While we seek way forward for periodic weekend-long committee retreats, we have begun with what seems manageable: a two-hour retreat before our meetings on Committee Meeting Days has allowed us to deepen spiritual fellowship and grow our reliance on Spirit to guide us. We intend to continue this important expansion of our practice, allowing us time to pray, worship, share with one another.
The Committee is responsible for bringing forward a leader or leaders for the Retreat which opens Annual Session each year. Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch (sojourning at Valley Friends Meeting) will lead this year’s retreat weaving together the yearly meeting theme and a focus on how and why Friends do their business spiritually grounded.
At Annual Session Business Meetings, Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee has delegated Friends to serve as Greeters and called upon others to sit on the “facing bench” holding Business Meetings in the Light. The Committee has also identified leaders to facilitate the daily morning Worship Sharing groups and Bible study at Annual Session. The Committee also takes responsibility for the conduct of Meeting for Worship during Annual Session.
The Committee has the Working Group on Racism under its care. Jean-Marie Prestwidge- Barch, a member of both groups, continues to serve as our liaison. We are grateful for the Working Group on Racism and their guidance in furtherance of our concerns around racism; we particularly acknowledge the support of members of this group in bringing forward presenters for our plenary programs during these annual sessions. For further information about their work this year, please see their advance report.
The Committee holds the Women’s retreat, the Silent Retreats, and the Spiritual Formation Program under its care. These programs provide important spiritual support for Friends from across the Yearly Meeting.
The BYM Women’s Retreat was held January 29-31, 2010 at Skycroft Conference Center in Middletown, Maryland. The theme of the retreat was “Living From Divine Passion and Purpose” and the retreat featured three sessions of small worship sharing groups and fifteen workshops. About 140 women attended from all areas of the Yearly Meeting and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, good food, worship and singing, sacred circle dancing, a coffee house and good camaraderie. We all departed refreshed by a shared spiritual experience. Details about this annual event can be found on the Women’s Retreat website.
For almost 2 decades, Friends from Baltimore Yearly Meeting have gathered twice a year (June and October) in Germantown, MD at Dayspring Retreat Center for a Silent Retreat. These weekends are structured around individual and corporate worship. A total of about 30 Friends from about 6 Monthly Meetings participated in the past year. We open with supper and worship sharing, holding the silence from Friday evening until after worship on Sunday (in June) or Monday (in October). We share meals, enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, read, walk, rest, pray, and listen for the Still Small Voice.
The Spiritual Formation Program nurtured deep spiritual growth in its participants this year. Twenty-eight Friends from eight Meetings within BYM participated in the September and/or May weekend retreats held at Priest Field Pastoral Center in West Virginia. We were able to grant partial scholarships to five of these twenty-eight Friends to enable them to attend the retreats. An additional thirty-six Friends from among these eight Meetings participated in the Spiritual Formation Program but did not attend the retreats, giving a total participation of sixty-four Friends. In addition to these eight Meetings represented at the retreats, several other BYM Meetings continued their own Spiritual Formation Programs during the year. The September opening retreat introduced participants to the Program, allowed participants to sample several spiritual practices, and provided guidance for local group organization and sharing. Local groups met throughout the year in a spirit of community hospitality and fellowship, read spiritual books together, and shared their individual spiritual journeys and spiritual practices. The May retreat included sharing of personal stories, worship sharing around a wonderful Faith and Play demonstration called “Listening for God,” and sharing around queries about how we listen for the divine and hear it speak to us. One participant expressed the meaningfulness of the program in these words:
The program as a whole provides an opportunity for me to consider what I have been taught over the years and what I actually believe about God. The sharing presents multiple perspectives. Coming together we hear so many different views and are invited to share our own. It is rooted in our lived experience—spirituality must be lived experientially. The SF program provides an opportunity to share this most important aspect of our spiritual life.
The Committee is also concerned with deepening the spiritual life of the constituent Monthly Meetings by encouraging and supporting Monthly Meetings as they recognize, publicly affirm, and practically support those individuals who exercise their gifts in faithful ministry and service. The Committee supports and assists Monthly Meetings in fostering community and recognizing and addressing the needs of individuals within their Meetings. We welcome opportunities to visit with Meetings and appreciate invitations to worship with you. In addition, members of the ommittee are available for consultation to Meetings where there are pastoral care needs; such consultation is, of course, confidential and we have served several Meetings in this capacity during the past year.
The Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee sends suggestions to Monthly Meetings on the preparation of the Annual Report of the Spiritual State of the Monthly Meeting in accordance with the guidelines in Faith and Practice. The Committee receives the approved reports and incorporates them, with concerns and information about events in the Yearly Meeting, into a Spiritual State of the Yearly Meeting Report which is presented at Annual Session. The Committee considers requests for Yearly Meeting endorsement of minutes of support for members traveling in the ministry outside our Yearly Meeting. Such minutes usually are prepared by the traveler’s Monthly Meeting.
Committee members have made visits to several Monthly Meetings including: Blacksburg, York, Carlyle, Abingdon, Lynchburg, Floyd and Hopewell Center. We review the visitors’ impressions to develop our understanding of the spiritual state of our yearly meeting and to increase our responsiveness to pastoral care needs. Meetings are strongly encouraged to invite these visits.
The Committee has prepared a Manual describing our responsibilities and procedures and has begun to create a document for our own use which details our processes throughout the year to facilitate transition between clerks and to improve our ability to listen to what Spirit would have of us. The Committee reflected on various issues as requested by officers of the Yearly Meeting, Meetings, or other Committees; we continue to seek clarity about the direct affiliation of worship groups with the Yearly Meeting. We offer a one-day scholarship to encourage those interested in attending our Committee meetings during Annual Session.
The Committee met 5 times during the year (at the 3 Interim Meeting days and twice during Yearly Meeting sessions) with an attendance of Committee members of 6-10 and a number of visitors.
Respectfully submitted by Jean-Marie Prestwidge Barch, Clerk, on behalf of the Committee. 8th month, 2010